Formula One’s worst-kept secret this summer is seemingly the fact that Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque driver tipped for stardom, is headed to Ferrari for the 2019 season. Indeed, the Sauber man has had a highly impressive rookie year in the sport, and with Kimi Raikkonen nearing the end of his career it does seem to make sense for the prancing horse. But who wins and who loses from this deal in the paddock?
Naturally, Leclerc is the big winner from this deal. For Ferrari – a team that has historically opted against risking success with young talent – to offer a seat to a man headed into his second year of Formula One highlights just how highly rated the young Monegasque man is within the paddock. It is a glorious opportunity for a driver who has taken every chance he has been afforded in his short career thus far.
Similarly, for Ferrari this is an excellent deal. Not only are they getting an excellent talent in Leclerc, but they also solve the Kimi Raikkonen issue that has bugged the team for the last couple of years. If they can control the new Vettel-Leclerc relationship in Maranello, then Ferrari would at last have a genuine race-winning driver line-up that can rival that of Mercedes and Red Bull.
With Ferrari opening the door for Leclerc, it closes yet another door for Daniel Ricciardo. Without the option of Ferrari, it seemingly ensures Ricciardo has little option but to resign with Red Bull, thus preserving the mercurial partnership of Ricciardo and Verstappen for at least another year. However, Red Bull need to learn from this experience and put a plan in place for their future. Whilst both Ricciardo and Verstappen are young, life in Formula One moves fast – and it nearly caught the Bull out on this occasion.
The Ice Man’s end? With his exit from Ferrari seemingly a formality, Raikkonen now enters an interesting period in his career. McLaren have been reportedly in talks with the Finn, but at the age of 38 does Kimi have the motivation to carry on for a team that is firmly cemented in the midfield? Whilst Lotus was by no means a tile-challenging outfit during his time there, they were in a much better place than McLaren certainly is, and it may be the case that the only offer through Kimi’s door won’t be enough to convince him it’s worth his time.
Sainz has made it no secret in the last couple of years that he wants the top job at Red Bull, and whilst his loan to Renault has placated him, the Spaniard must have been hoping that ‘the big one’ was finally coming his way with Ricciardo potentially jumping ship. With Leclerc at Ferrari – and thus Ricciardo staying put – however, Sainz is made to wait once more. Even worse for the Renault man is that Pierre Gasly could well be slowly putting his case forward for the future as he puts together an impressive first full season against Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso, meaning Sainz may never get the Red Bull seat he’s cherished.
Sauber have had a highly impressive year in 2018, and their road to recovery following a disastrous period in the last couple of years seems to be underway. A major part in their strong performance this year has been Leclerc, however, who has outscored his more experienced teammate Marcus Ericsson 13-3. The loss of Leclerc could heavily set the Swiss outfit back, but that was ultimately a reality that was bound to happen when Leclerc joined the team at the beginning of the year.